Second Skin: Our Randonee Recruit's Latest Ski Blog

SLACKCOUNTRY SKI TOUR

It's Kevin's second ski tour, this time in slackcountry, skiing the backcountry from the lifts in sublime untracked spring snow, then skinning back up...

Having successfully had my first taste of backcountry skiing without major incident, I was bitten and eager to return, and it didn’t take long before another opportunity arose.

Again, with the STYLE ALTITUDE team but this time rather than start with a skin up the mountain, we made good use of the extensive lift system in the Serre Chevalier Valley. We met in the large free car park at the newly installed Pontillas gondola in Villeneuve. which we took before transferring to the Mea drag lift arriving at the top of Col de Mea at 2,450m. This is where we parted company with the resort skiers and accessed the backcountry.

It hadn’t snowed for several days but the snow conditions couldn’t have been better. Near perfect spring snow, far better than the conditions we had experienced only two days earlier when we ascended Gardiole at 2,753m. No doubt something to do with the aspect of the slopes.

This being only my second experience of backcountry skiing, I am still getting used to the differing snow conditions and this was evident when I started the descent. I was initially spooked by what sounded like someone skiing closely in my tracks, which actually turned out to be the snow I had dislodged rolling down the mountain behind me. This was met with much amusement from the rest of the group!  

The Col provides extensive routes down, you just need to make sure you know where you are going because there are a number of gullies that need to be avoided for a safe descent. After something like half an hour of uninterrupted skiing in what can only be described as breathtaking scenery, the decision was taken to stop for a refuel. This had the benefit of letting the snow soften before we undertook the final descent.

Once we reached the valley floor we skinned up and started the long ascent. We didn’t, however, retrace our tracks, we took a completely different route bringing us out at the bottom of the Cucumelle chair lift which ends at the top of the Col de la Cucumelle. From there we could ski down all the way to our starting point although this time, exclusively on piste.

I have skied in Serre Chevalier for getting on for 20 years but had absolutely no idea where we were and was completely disorientated. I would never been able to find my way back to the lift without the experience of our group leader and was a sober reminder as to just how careful you have to be when you stray off the pistes. 

French holidays are now a distant memory, the difference between the backcountry and piste skiing could not have been more evident during our return. The pistes are certainly not busy but compared to the previous three hours where we didn’t encounter a single human being, this seemed like rush hour in London!

Safely back in the car park, we recounted our experience over a thoroughly deserved lunch. Until the next time!

And a great video of the day!